Whether you like smoky meats or veggies and cheese, you’ll fall in love with those smokers! In this guide, we’ll talk about what an electric smoker is, what it is good for, how to properly use and clean it, and share some nice little cooking tips that can help your perfect any food you choose to smoke. We’ll also review the TOP 5 Best Electric Smokers currently available for purchase, so all you have to do is sit back, relax and read on!
- What’s an electric smoker and how it works?
- What are electric smokers good for? // What to make/cook in it?
- How & where to use an electric smoker with video instructions
- TOP 5 Best Electric Smokers
An electric smoker is a device that uses electricity and wood chips to smoke meats and other produce for further consumption. The main advantage of electric smokers is that you really don’t have to do much of anything: there’s no lighting charcoal, no checking fuel, no mess to clean up, and only about 3 ounces of wood chips to give your foodstuff that smoky flavor. All there’s to do here is plug the smoker, fumble around with digital controls, put your meats, close the door, relax, and take a drink. Inexpensive options have a rheostat that turns down the electricity to the coil. More expensive options have a built-in thermostat with a probe within a smoking chamber that regulates the temperature and turns the juice on and off.
Are electric smokers any good?
Of course, nothing will beat the taste of meat or veggies smoked to perfection on gas, charcoal, or a pellet smoker, but electric smokers are good for beginners and some foods in particular, like sausage, bacon, or cheese. Even if you’re a seasoned pro and swear by the beauty and taste of meats you do in your electric smoker, the good old-fashioned cooking methods are still considered the best way of preparing authentically rich and flavourful meats. But electric smokers are still good, some of them are even very good. In this guide, we’ve embarked on a journey to figure out which ones exactly are so good it’s worth recommending to you.
You can cook practically anything in your smoker: chicken, turkey, ribs, sausages, burgers, and pork butts, veggies, cheese, and nuts. Particularly though, electric smokers are good for smoking peppers, nuts, bacon, and cheese.
- Speaking of meat, you’ll need to thaw it first (unless it’s fresh, of course). Michigan State University Extension recommends thawing meat in the fridge or microwave, rather than in the smoker or at the room temperature.
- Check if a smoker of your choice needs to be seasoned first. Seasoning a smoker means cleaning it first from the inside out, letting it dry, and then running it hot (at 250–275 °F) for about 2 to 3 hours to eliminate residue left after the manufacturing process.
- After the seasoning, open the smoker’s door and allow it to fully cool off.
- Then plug in the smoker and turn it on.
- Pull out the chip tray and fill it with the desired type of chips and the amount specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. More tips on wood chips can be found at the end of this guide: Chip Tips.
- Preheat the smoker to 200–225 °F and wait for approximately 30 minutes for your smoker to get ready.
- Open the smoker and pour hot water into a water bowl at the bottom of the smoking chamber. You can add other liquids to water for a nuanced flavor (like vinegar, wine, or even beer)
- Season your meat or marinate it according to your taste.
- Put on protecting gloves and place meats on the racks inside the smoking chamber with large items on the lower racks and smaller ones on the upper.
- Close and lock the door. Try not to open the door throughout the whole cooking process.
- Refer to your recipe book for cooking times.
- Add more chips or water as needed. As soon as the smoke from the smoker stops, time for a refill.
- As soon as the meat’s done, remove it from the racks and let it rest.
- Clean your smoker.
Assembly & pre-seasoning process:
Below, we’ll cover the best electric models we’ve found online, among those are only trusted brands with impeccable reputations and good quality products. The prices do vary: the more features and control over the cooking process you want, the more you have to pay. The beginner models are around 80 dollars, the most expensive ones skyrocket to 500. But the best value for the money is usually about 200 dollars.
Electric Smoker with Thermostat | Smoke Hollow - electric smoker for beginners
Smoke Hollow is a popular American brand that specializes in grilling appliances and accessories. It's among those trusted brands with which you can rely on support and warranty with the products they deliver.
This item here is very easy to use, so even if digital gadgetry is not really your thing, don’t worry, you’ll be able to figure it out in no time. All there’s to do is to plug a smoker in, set the digital controls, pick your wood chip flavor, and put your favorite foods on three available racks, the smoker will do the rest for you. The fully-insulated construction keeps all the heat inside, while an 800-watt element with integrated thermostat temperature control ensures the cooking is even and consistent. There is also a digital control panel with temperature and time, adjustable air damper for smoke control, removable drip pan and water bowl.
The price won’t break your budget, the smoker is priced affordably ($70-80) considering the quality and functionality it features. The testers who bought the device didn’t report any issues with the smoker up to date. So with all things being equal, this smoker seems like a good buy.
Smoke Hollow with Thermostat: Check the current price
Electric Smoker with Temperature Control | Smoke Hollow - electric smoker under 200 with a 1500-watt heating element
This is another model from Smoke Hollow, which is, however, a little more expensive than the previous model (around $100). It’s also more powerful and has other distinctive features which fully justify its price.
There’s a 1500-watt heating element with fully adjustable temperature control and two chrome-plated cooking grids, which can be adjusted to variable heights to accommodate different types of food. Among other features are an advanced heat indicator, a steel cabinet with side and cool-touch spring wire handles, latch system, adjustable draft controls, porcelain-coated removable wood chip tray and water pan.
The customers who invested in this model were pretty happy with how the product delivered, many of them said they used the smoker every weekend since they bought it, or that it was a fantastic option for pork butts and loins and thus, was an ideal thing for pulled pork sandwiches.
Among the issues reported by the unhappy consumers were inconsistent temperature, unreliable heating elements, and low quality of materials used.
Smoke Hollow with Temperature Control: Check the current price
Electric Digital Smoker Front Controller with Thermostat | Masterbuilt - electric smoker for two whole turkeys
This is a bestselling smoker from Masterbuilt, another industry leader in grilling and smoking gear, that’s been in business for more than 40 years. The high-quality of its products have earned this line their pristine reputation.
This 30-inch smoker is perfect for both a seasoned pro and a beginner alike. Again, there’s not much to do here, except plug it in, set the digital controls, put your food and chips in, and the smoker does all the rest.
Among the stand-out features here are four chrome-coated smoking racks, patented side wood chip loading system, where you add chips without opening the smoker door, and integrated thermostat temperature control for consistent cooking.
If you’d like to have an electric smoker with window, then there’s actually an option for you: this smoker is available with a convenient glass opening through a stainless steel construction to observe the cooking process. This window model also features a remote control.
If you’re looking for a more technologically advanced model which will allow you to monitor the cooking process from the screen of your mobile phone, then Masterbuilt has one for you: Bluetooth Electric Smoker, where your smart device becomes a remote control.
Masterbuilt with Thermostat: Check the current price
Digital Electric Smoker with Removable Food Thermometer | Char-Broil - electric smoker with glass door and wheels
This model is quite expensive (more than $300), it’s also quite spacious (725 sq in) and has an array of features that make this model stand out from the competition.
Char-Broil features double-wall insulated construction. There’re also four easily adjustable and removable racks and a food thermometer, a glass door for easy monitoring, large stainless steel locking latch, and wheels for easy transportation. The smoker box has a huge capacity, lasting four to seven hours before requiring a refill. The food thermometer is a real treasure: just insert the probe into the meat and the smoker will alert you when the meat is cooked to a pre-determined internal meat temperature. There’s also a nice warming feature that would keep your food warm until you get to it and remove it from the smoker.
Customers had varying degrees of success with the smoker, and while some achieved really good results with smoking their meat cuts without smoker failing in like 3 months, others had issues with bad heating elements, leakage, messing around with replacement parts, etc. Would have been a fantastic option if not for the consumer reports saying Char-Broil seriously needs to do something with their internal quality control.
Char-Broil: Check the current price
Smart Digital Electric Smoker with Bluetooth | Masterbuilt - electric smoker with an app
This is yet another option from Masterbuilt, more expensive, but more advanced as well: your mobile device can become a smart remote control in seconds with integrated Bluetooth Smart technology. There’s an app where you can control cooking temperature and time, operate the food light and monitor the internal temperature of meats, as well as start and shut off the device itself. There’s also a transparent glass window where you can see how your meats are gently smoked, take pictures, and share it online.
Customers seemed to love the gear, but others had problems with the apps, which was more of a bummer, of course, considering the price of this thing. But thankfully, Masterbuilt has fantastically responsive and helpful customer service who are there to guide you every step of the way and exchange the units, if anything.
Masterbuilt with Bluetooth: Check the current price
Comparative chart of Electric Smokers
Smoke Hollow with Thermostat
|Digital panel controls |
Thermostat temperature control
800-watt heating element
Adjustable air damper
Removable drip pan & water bowl
Smoke Hollow with Temperature Control
|Fully-welded steel cabinet |
2 Chrome-plated cooking grids
1500-watt heating element
Removable wood chip tray & water pan
Capacity: 1.3 cu.ft.
Masterbuilt with Thermostat
|721 sq. inch of cooking space |
4 chrome-coated racks
800-watt heating element
Thermostat temperature control
Options with window and remote control
|750-watt heating element |
725 sq. inch of cooking space
8.5-Cup High-Capacity Grease Tray
Removable Temperature Gauge
Large Capacity Smoke Box
Digital Programmable Controls
Masterbuilt with Bluetooth
|Integrated Bluetooth technology-control |
721 sq. inch
800-watt heating element
Digital panel controls
Internal meat temperature
Blue LED digital control panel display
4 chrome-coated smoking racks
- Hickory chips will pair well with most of the meats
- Applewood chips are best for chicken and pork
- Mesquite is perfect for beef because of its stronger flavor
- Alder wood chips are perfect for fish
Although some connoisseurs say to never soak chips, USDA actually advises doing so. To see how you like it most you really need to experiment!
Pros and cons
- Ideal for beginners to learn the basics of smoking meats
- Very easy to operate: set the time and do your stuff until it’s done
- Space-saving and easy to clean up
- Prices are pretty affordable
- Might malfunction in winter and cold temperatures without being able to reach the desired or needed temperature
- Cannot be used in the rain
- Larger models (like 40-inch) would cost more but would be able to accommodate larger pieces of meat
- The traditional smokers still yield better flavors
Is smoked meat bad for your health?
Let’s face it, smoked, grilled, or BBQed meat (any meat actually for that matter) is not very healthy. So don’t expect an electric smoker to make meat suddenly very healthy or beneficial.
Back in the 1980s, the study that observed certain districts in Hungary for 10 years found that the percentage of stomach cancer among all types of cancer was nearly twice as high in one of the Hungarian districts, where predominantly home-smoked meat products were consumed.
The more recent study (2017) observed survivors of breast cancer and their smoked, grilled, and barbecued meat consumption after surgery for 18 years and concluded that those who consumed smoked (grilled and barbequed) meats after surgery had increased mortality rates, which were elevated by as much as 31%. Those women who didn’t consume meat had a better chance of living longer.
But is an electric smoker worse than any other type of smoker?
Not really, it’s certainly not dangerous or worse than others. In fact, it eliminates certain chemicals that are detrimental to health anyway. However, it also takes away the complexity of the combustion gases which makes the food from electric gear taste inferior to that from traditional smokers.
Can an electric smoker be used indoors? // Can it be used in a garage?
Some smokers that utilize cold smoke can be used indoors. Like this Slow Cooker Kit from Masterbuilt. However, please, check if the product can be used indoors with a seller or in an instruction manual.
Can an electric smoker be used in rain? // Can it get wet?
Yes, it can get wet, thus cannot be used in rain.
Can an electric smoker be kept or stored outside?
It’s better to store it under a roof, like in a garage.
Can it catch fire?
Yes. So, please, follow the instructions carefully to prevent the fire.
Can an electric smoker be used as a dehydrator?
Yes, you can. But the temperature should be really low.
Can you use an electric smoker in winter?
Yes, you can. But it won’t probably as easy as in summer time and will take much longer.
Can I use it on a screen porch?
Yes, you can.
How much water should I use in an electric smoker?
Fill the water pan that comes with the smoker completely to the brink, and check if it’s there in a few hours. Usually, you’ll have to refill water every 2-3 hours.
When and how to clean an electric smoker?
You need to clean your smoker after each use:
- Turn the smoker off, unplug, and let it cool down completely.
- Take everything out from the smoker (racks, trays, bowls).
- Use a sponge or a damp towel to clean the smoker’s accessories and the inside (never use harsh chemicals except for a small amount of vinegar for stubborn stains).
- Before cooking some people wrap aluminum foil around trays for an easy clean-up process.
- Wipe out the smoker after the clean-up, let it dry, put everything back in and close the door.
Clean-up and storage:
In conclusion, it’s worth saying, that whatever gear you choose, you really need to experiment and practice with the meats, seasoning, herbs, liquids you use to achieve that ultimately nuanced and rich flavor, but it’s all worth it! Good luck and happy cooking!